Aiban left Syria 4 years ago because of escalating violence.
“Life had become impossible in Syria. Not just everyday life, but life itself. I wanted to get to Europe to find safety and send for my family. I didn’t know the borders would be closed. Now I am stuck here in Serbia.
Mohammed, ( travelling name: Aiban Kreem, 17)
I am the eighth of ten children, I have 8 sisters and one brother. My family didn’t agree for me to leave – it was my own idea, but they were angry and I fell out with my family. They didn’t want me to come to Europe, they wanted me to stay with them – I was just 15 when I left. But there is nothing left of our home, and some of my sisters live in Turkey now. I tried living there but I was working for 16 or 17 hours each day, for very little money. Not enough to send for my family from Syria.
I had to leave school at 15. I was so good in school! I got such good grades. I want to finish my education. That’s what I want – to find somewhere safe to finish my education, have good work, send for my family and one day, have a wife and children of my own.
It is difficult as a young man travelling alone. But it is much more difficult for the women and children. Men can live with any conditions.
Most of my journey has been by bus, but I also walked a lot, sometimes 15 days at a time. Some of the journey I travelled with my best friend, a friend from home. We travelled for 6 days inside a crate of sand on a cargo train, in the cold and dark, to get from Sid (Northwest Serbia) to Slovenia. We got caught by Croatian police, who beat us and sent us back to Serbia. All that effort, all that time – 6 days freezing in the dark…And within 3 hours of being caught we were back where we had started. My friend is now living in a camp somewhere else in Serbia. We wanted to stay together, but we weren’t allowed. I miss him.
Then I tried around 20 times to cross the border into Hungary, but the police caught me every time. They beat me, and set their dogs on me. During that time, I spent more than a month sleeping in the forest. You don’t want to know what the border police do to us when they catch us… you don’t want to know.
They steal everything from us – they hit us with batons, they smash our phones, so we can’t contact our family. They take our bags, our money… everything. Last December they even took my shoes. I was left in the freezing cold with nothing. Once they used pepper spray and I was blind for three days. I didn’t know if I would ever see again.
One time I tried to cross the border with two girls from Iraq. I thought, if I am with girls they won’t beat us, they won’t be so cruel. But they beat us. They set their dogs on us. And they said the worst kind of words to us.
It’s easier to cross borders with people smugglers, but it is very expensive. I didn’t have such money, so I had to try by myself.
What has been the worst thing for me? Nothing. I knew all this would happen, and I accepted it. Before I even left my country, I accepted it.
How do I cope by myself? How do I live with my fate? This situation has made me more strong. I have learned many things. I have learned how to survive in the forest. I’ve learned how to live without food or water. How to count on myself. Me and my friend, we were the best in this way. One time he was totally sick, so sick he couldn’t move. And I was at his service for three days. And I’ve learned English. I’ve learned to say to myself, “Yeah, Aiban. It’s OK. Life goes on.”
What do I miss most about home? My mum… my mum….my mum. Just her. My life, my school, my everything… my country. When I see my country destroyed, all my people killed… to see your whole life destroyed, your whole family destroyed….and you cannot do anything. There is not a thing I can do.
I feel sick with sadness for my family.
My father is too old now. Before I left Syria, I was saving money. Now I have left they are all alone, and they need help. As a man, I want to help my family. But what can I do? I have absolutely nothing, except the life in me. Nothing but this miserable life I am living.
I have a message I would like to say to people in Europe, to anyone who has never had to leave their home. I want to say to them: try one day here. Try to even imagine your country destroyed, your family dying, and you can’t do anything.
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